What is this Christmas goat-demon intent on punishing naughty children?
It’s Krampus, of course – the horned, terrifying beast with long dark hair and deadly fangs. He carries birch sticks, which he uses to swat the kids who haven’t been nice.
He licks them with his evil snake tongue, too.
The mystical creature was born in Austrian folklore – and is part of the country’s festive traditions. He appears across Europe, however, and more recently grew popular in the US, thanks to various comic books, parties, and 2015’s big budget movie.
In the likes of Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia, Krampus even has his own parade.
What is Krampus?
The most terrifying fact of all? Krampus takes the bad kids down to his lair – the underworld, where Christmas trees are black and the reindeer are all dead.
In 2011, the writer and chef Anthony Bourdain even created A Krampus Carol after finding himself intrigued by the beast.
Krampus, the christmas devil
"Krampus is Santa Claus’ whip-toting Christmas sidekick," reads the blurb.
"According to legend, Krampus joins Santa where he tends to the children on Santa’s naughty list. No coal here though. Instead, Krampus whips and licks children into shape or carries them off in his sack."
According to National Geographic, Krampus’ "name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology."
The Krampus run 2016
The legendary scaremonger shares characteristics with other deplorable creatures in Greek mythology – which is full of bizarre, horrible foes. The practice is not dissimilar to many fairytales, fed to children in days of old in order to keep them in check.
Krampus is about making sure naughty kids jump back in line specifically over the Christmas period.
The history of Krampus
On the night before December 6 (St Nicholas Day, or ‘Krampusnacht’ in German), the festive counterpart purportedly turns up in villages and towns.
Kids look in the boot they’d left out over night to discover whether they’ve been given sweets for being good, or a rod for being pechalent.
Those with a rod? They can expect a bout of birch whipping. After, Krampus will carry them off in his filthy sack.
These days, the tradition continues. In Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, drunken men dress as Krampus take to the streets for a Krampuslauf (Krampus Run), and chase people around.
People also make Krampus decorations, sport the demon on sweaters, and watch versions of the movie.
It’s all very pagan and demonic – a way, it seems, for people to get in touch with their animalistic and spiritual side.
And now, despite past efforts by the Catholic church and fascist WWII dictators to dispel the myth for ever more (it was apparently the making of Social Democrats), pop culture ‘bah humbug’ attitudes are bringing Krampus back to life.
Merry Christmas. Don’t get got!